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Old 12-26-2012, 11:10 AM   #1
keepcalmandwriteon
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Hi everyone, I have already done some research on this question, but I thought I should pose it to this intelligent group of people as well.

How much does the average published novelist make? Would I be able to live on
that income? I currently make $17000 a year at my job, but I would like to one day quit and make writing my career. Is it possible for me to make close to the same or more then my current salary?


Hope everyone had a merry christmas
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Old 12-26-2012, 11:30 AM   #2
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Old 12-26-2012, 01:05 PM   #3
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Studies carried out in 2000 and 2005 by the UK's Society of Authors suggested that writers' average earnings were very low. I can't remember the exact figures (I blogged about it: search my Publishing blog, linked to in my signature).

Most writers have day-jobs, and write around them.
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Old 12-26-2012, 01:27 PM   #4
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There's no average novelist's salary because novelists don't really earn a salary per se.

As to what novelists make, actor income is probably a good comparison. The vast majority make nothing to very little, because the vast majority can't get work doing it. Those that do get work make a range from very little to a whole lot.
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Old 12-26-2012, 03:05 PM   #5
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Old 12-26-2012, 03:18 PM   #6
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The wisest thing to do is keep your day job until you've been consistantly pulling in enough from your writing that you can afford to quit.

Quitting before reaching that point is a crazy gamble, and will put so much pressure on you that it will probably be harder to reach that point than it would have been if you were writing around the day job.

Knowing you have a steady income helps keep the stress at managable levels. Rejection letters are difficult enough when they don't determine whether you'll have money to pay your rent.
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Old 12-26-2012, 03:31 PM   #7
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If I wanted to get rich I would have become a doctorlawyer.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Make the Money:
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If I'd had done it for the money, I would have been a fucking lawyer.
Lawyers read and write more than us anyhow (supposedly).


The phrase goes: Don't quit your day job. But, hell, if your writing takes off, best of luck! Don't stop writing because you can't make a living.
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Old 12-26-2012, 03:48 PM   #8
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Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Make the Money:


Lawyers read and write more than us anyhow (supposedly).
I was thinking of respectable professions.
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Old 12-26-2012, 04:24 PM   #9
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I was once told by a literary agent that she advises her clients to keep their day-jobs and not consider giving them up unless they have five consecutive high-selling novels under their belts, with another two or three contracted.

Very few writers reach that point.
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Old 12-26-2012, 04:53 PM   #10
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Whatever about how much money you're going to make, think of these things firstly.
(assuming that you've a brilliant novel written already)

- If you the route of getting an agent and/or publisher, chances are it will stay take anything from 12 months to 3 years before your book is on the shelf - Traditionally published authors will fill you in a little better.

- The other route, the one which I'm on, is self-publish your work. OK, the novel will be available a lot sooner, but the amount of work in self-promotion, while trying to get the novel ready for publishing, is crazy. Plus, with self-publishing, you are guaranteed...nothing.
Few self-published diaries on AW here.

In other words, do not quit the day job until your writing is; easily paying your bills, mortgage/rent, four holidays a year and putting a few coins into your savings fund (That is my rough guide)
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Old 12-26-2012, 04:59 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by keepcalmandwriteon View Post
Is it possible for me to make close to the same or more then my current salary?
Yes. But remember that possible doesn't mean probable. And you have to learn grammar first...

Now if you stop thinking novelist and just think writer, your options broaden and your income will increase.

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Old 12-26-2012, 05:25 PM   #12
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If you have two novelists in a room, each of whom earn five thousand a year, the average salary is pretty low. If Stephen King then walks into the room, the average salary is suddenly several million per year.

"Average" may be the most useless word in the English language. How much you can earn depends on how good you are, and on how dedicated you are to planting your butt and writing. Seventeen thousand isn't very much money, even for a writer.

Remember the old recipe for rabbit stew that begins, "First, catch a rabbit"? If you can catch that first rabbit, make one sale to a good magazine, or one sale to a good book publisher, the rest is up to you.
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Old 12-26-2012, 05:39 PM   #13
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It depends entirely on the novelist, how many books s/he has on backlist, how prolific a writer s/he is, and a ton of other variables... so this isn't a question that can really be answered. I have a friend who earns six digits a year with her writing. I can reliably pay one bill a month with mine. I know any number of people who are in between those figures.

Is it possible to replace your current income with writing income? Yes. Maybe. Eventually. I don't recommend quitting your day job any time soon, because writing income can be sporadic and unreliable.
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Old 12-26-2012, 05:50 PM   #14
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I figure I'll be able to live off my writing in about four years - that's if I take early retirement from SS.
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Old 12-26-2012, 05:58 PM   #15
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I was once told by a literary agent that she advises her clients to keep their day-jobs and not consider giving them up unless they have five consecutive high-selling novels under their belts, with another two or three contracted.

Very few writers reach that point.
She has high standards! I agree that even a bestseller, if it's just one, isn't enough to quit the day job these days. But there's also a leap that needs to be taken at some point...preferably before the writer has a mortgage, three hungry kids and college looming. Once the work starts selling and there's some regular income coming in, writers may take a look at their personal/financial situations and ask, "If not now, when?"

Of course, this is biased by my own experience. I had a thriving literary agency that I spent years building up. The more successful it was, the more time-consuming. I finally made the decision to sell it to focus on my own writing. Dumb decision, financially---I'm too slow a writer to live solely off my fiction, and I would have made a lot more money as an agent. But brilliant decision in terms of my growth as a writer and personal satisfaction.
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Old 12-26-2012, 06:00 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by keepcalmandwriteon View Post
Hi everyone, I have already done some research on this question, but I thought I should pose it to this intelligent group of people as well.

How much does the average published novelist make? Would I be able to live on
that income? I currently make $17000 a year at my job, but I would like to one day quit and make writing my career. Is it possible for me to make close to the same or more then my current salary?


Hope everyone had a merry christmas
Until you have a handful of published books that are consistently earning well, you probably shouldn't even think about trying to make that your sole source of income.
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Old 12-26-2012, 07:36 PM   #17
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Recently I read that it was 33% of an average wage. Don't remember the source though sorry!
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Old 12-26-2012, 07:52 PM   #18
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A while back $5000 to $10,000 was being tossed about as an average first advance. However, that's not money you get all at once, or even in even increments like a paycheck.

Your advance is going to depend to what sort of writing you do, how large the market is, what the genre is, etc, because it's the amount the publisher thinks the book will earn over the life of its publication. Once you sign the contract, you'll get part of it, but how big a part will depend on the house and contract.

Say you get $17,000, which is what you say you make now.

Your contract says it's paid out in thirds, which means that on signing, you get $5,666.66. However, 15% of that goes to an agent, if you have one, so take $850 off of that. Then take out your taxes. You get what's left, and that may be all you see for another year for that book. The next 1/3 will come when the publisher accepts the final manuscript, and the last 1/3 will come when the book hits shelves.

On this board alone, the advances range from nothing to seven figures.
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Old 12-26-2012, 08:08 PM   #19
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If you can sell at all, $17,000 is not a tough number to reach. It just isn't. We're not talking about replacing a high-paying job with great benefits, and I'm guessing we're not talking about paying off a mortgage, and probably not even a new car. We're talk about just three thousand dollars above minimum wage.

We're talking $327 a week. You don't even have to write novels at all to earn better than this. I can make that much writing short stories, and just about three times that writing articles, and do so without hitting any of the really big markets.

Marion Zimmer Bradley used to say that anyone who could sell one short story to a good magazine could earn a living as a writer. Assuming the writer actually plants his butt in a chair and writes as often as he should, treats writing as a business, and doesn't screw around taking two months to write a short story, or two years to write a novel, there's no reason this isn't true.
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Old 12-26-2012, 08:35 PM   #20
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The only thing I would add to what has been said is that you're living on $17K now. What stage of life are you in? Are you ever planning to get married and have a family? Most people don't live on $17K throughout their lives.

I don't even entertain the idea of giving up my day job for writing, because my day job reliably pays a comfortable, reliable 6 figures. It's unlikely that I'd make that with writing... and I like my standard of living way too much to give up my salary. I didn't make this salary when I was in my early 20s though!!
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Old 12-26-2012, 08:40 PM   #21
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Also consider health insurance, retirement saving etc.
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Old 12-26-2012, 09:00 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by keepcalmandwriteon View Post
How much does the average published novelist make? Would I be able to live on
that income? I currently make $17000 a year at my job, but I would like to one day quit and make writing my career.
The other day, I was in a chatroom with a well-known and widely published author in my genre. She was willing to admit that her average monthly income from her writing was $500. She counted on her supportive husband's day job to keep going.
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Old 12-26-2012, 09:40 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie View Post
If you have two novelists in a room, each of whom earn five thousand a year, the average salary is pretty low. If Stephen King then walks into the room, the average salary is suddenly several million per year.
You're forgetting that there are different sorts of averages, James. If Mr King were to walk into that room then the mean average would increase significantly, but the mode would remain at five thousand a year. And splitting hairs in this way doesn't really help, does it?

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The other day, I was in a chatroom with a well-known and widely published author in my genre. She was willing to admit that her average monthly income from her writing was $500. She counted on her supportive husband's day job to keep going.
Being well-known and widely published doesn't necessarily equate to being well-published or well-paid, I'm afraid. And many writers only have time to write because they have supportive partners.
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Old 12-26-2012, 10:47 PM   #24
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Old 12-26-2012, 11:08 PM   #25
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